Thursday, April 16, 2009

Wizards of the Coast and PDFs

Okay, a lot of the Blogosphere is in buzz over how Wizards of the Coast has stopped selling their books in Adobe's Portable Document Format (.pdf): both legacy pdfs (Dungeons and Dragons original to 3rd) and current pdfs (4th Edition). Understand something important, this is an anti-piracy measure. However, its both good and bad why they pulled their products out of .pdf distribution.


The Constitution of the United States has guaranteed protection of Copyright, the right for an Author or company, in United States law. This allows the user to defend their copyright if it has been violated by a 2nd or 3rd party. Wizards of the Coast is duty bound to defend their copyright of D&D 4e (and other editions that they own).

They are currently suing eight so called pirates because they managed to "steal" copies of the 4e PHB2. Wizards of the Coast has moved in to defend their copyright of that book. Their right to distribute that book has been violated and they did the right thing in doing so.

Because, if their material enters the public domain, they will lose their copyright if it remains in the public domain. Pulling .pdfs is regarded as a sound, legal move.

So, lets now talk about how it is bad!

We've talked about how it is good. Now lets take a look at the bad side. There are a couple of things wrong with pulling .pdfs so abruptly. It was legal, but the action was immoral.

Loss of Customers: WotC has lost many of their customer base for pulling .pdfs. A lot of customers felt that they got the shaft. Me included. There is a lot of legacy stuff I wanted to buy: D&D expert, D&D companion set, D&D Master set, D&D Imortal Rules -- some second editon (AD&D) .pdfs, and some first edition (AD&D) .pdfs (including the 1st edition DMG). Buy pulling .pdfs so abruptly, Wizards are treating their customer base as theives. And most of these people are law abiding, honest citizens. This is the main reason, actually.

Bad Publicity: in our economy, a move like this attracts bad publicity. Wizards of the Coast has already gotten a heap of bad publicity due to the dick like way they handled the Game System License at first (it was the major reason why I didn't buy 4e: for me to buy 4e, 4e has to be either totally open, or totally closed. Not somewhere inbetween). Pulling the .pdfs has attracted more bad publicity than the first GSL. In the eighties and the nineties, any publicity was good publicity. However, in the midst of a depression economy, bad publicity equals no sales.

Death of the Dungeons and Dragons brand: The game won't die. The brand will because of this move. Dungeons and Dragons has always been the gateway to the hobby that appeals most to highly creative people -- Roleplaying Games. Wizards of the Coast may be the juggernaut of the hobby industry, but it doesn't mean that juggernauts can not be slain. Wizards of the Coast may be unstoppable -- but the best thing to do as a participant is to buy a copy of another game in .pdf or in physical form. Don't buy Wizards of the Coast until this thing at least has been straightened out.

Other companies, good companies, to buy from include:
Malhavoc Press (Iron Heroes is high quality)
Steve Jackson Games (their 4th edition GURPS is of much higher quality than Wizards of the Coast's Dungeons and Dragons 4e)
Iron Crown Enterprises (love it or hate it, Rolemaster Classic is the best game of it's type of RPG out there).
White Wolf (Exalted was put out for free)
Palladium Books (Hell froze over when KS decided to put his stuff out in .pdf)
Green Ronin (Mutants and Masterminds)
Mongoose Publishing (Conan)
West End Games (d6)
Morrigan Press (Atlantis: the Second Age)

You may be a 4e fan when you read this, but by supporting the "rebellion" against WotC you are helping the economy over all and the hobby industry over all by buying from these fine companies. .pdf is really the future of roleplaying games, its the most economical way of distributing RPGs for both the consumer and the producer. Show everyone that this is the truth, buy a roleplaying game in .pdf. I have Exalted for free. So I count. In the meantime, I'm planning on purchasing the 1st edition of Palladium Fantasy Roleplaying (revised) sometime in the near future. :)

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